Friday, June 8, 2012

Nepal Lessons

I’ve travelled all over Nepal and have some fond – or, rather, interesting – memories that stand out. Some trips were personal, but most of my adventures in Nepal were official trips.

The road trips were the most educational part of my time in Nepal. I saw gorgeous views of lush green hills framed by the Himalayas. Beautiful birds and flowers. I also saw buses packed with people on the roof and abandoned trucks stuck in mud. I have done my personal business in places I would rather forget, and slept in beds that discouraged long-term stays.

During these road trips, my culinary experiences were usually pretty bland. Daal bhat or chow mein. After a week on the road and I never wanted to see rice or noodles again. But once in a while I would stumble upon something good. One time we stopped at a ramshackle tea house on the side of the road. We had a snack whose name I can’t spell and whose ingredients I can’t remember.  Sadly, I am resigned that I will never find that tasty treat again.

Speaking of food, while staying at “the best” hotel in Dhangadhi, it was too hot to leave my air conditioned room (I justified my laziness by telling myself that a hotel room with air conditioning was so rare, that I should enjoy it as much as possible), so I decided to order room service. The menu included hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken burger, etc. In a moment of foolish curiosity to see what a burger in a Hindu country might be (and an unwillingness to endure yet another daal bhat meal), I ordered a cheeseburger.  What arrived was two slices of bread… with a piece of cheese in between. Lesson learned.

Sometimes these trips taught me another kind of lesson. While in Jiri, I happened upon a funeral procession. A group of people was carrying a blanket-wrapped body, accompanied by musicians playing a melody that was difficult to discern, down to the river where they would set the pyre on fire. I asked another spectator how the person died and she told me he had been electrocuted. Another person had died the day before by drowning in the same river in which his body had been burned, and to which this stranger was being carried. Life is easily lost here.  Things I take for granted in America can kill you here. Faulty wiring, losing your balance while washing your clothes in the river, even diarrhea can be deadly.

It’s been an adventure. I can’t say that I enjoyed living in Kathmandu, but I’ve enjoyed exploring the country and having incredible experiences. I’m packing out soon and going on home leave, so I may not update this for a while.

See you in Kabul!